Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, April 28, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated. Click here to see all the most recent news about the pandemic, and click here to find additional resources.

King County should plan on being moved back to the second phase of Washington’s three-phase COVID-19 reopening plan, forcing restaurants, churches, gyms, museums and theaters to trim their capacity, the county’s director of public health said Tuesday. The possible backslide comes as case numbers and hospitalizations continue to rise in King County and statewide, amid what Gov. Jay Inslee last week called the state’s fourth wave of the pandemic. Counties are due for their next assessment on Monday.

Americans will have more time to get the Real ID that they will need to board a flight or enter federal facilities. The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday extended the Real ID deadline until May 3, 2023. The deadline had been Oct. 1, 2021, but it was becoming clear that many people wouldn’t make it, in part because the COVID-19 outbreak has made it harder for states to issue new licenses. Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 to establish minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards following a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission.

We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world. 

Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.

Fully vaccinated seniors are far less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, CDC study finds

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines being deployed to fight the coronavirus pandemic are highly effective in preventing hospitalizations among older adults, the group most at risk for severe disease and death, according to a federal study released Wednesday.

While not surprising, the results are reassuring because they provide the first real-world evidence in the United States that both vaccines prevent severe COVID-19 illness, as they did in clinical trials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

In the study, fully vaccinated adults 65 and older were 94% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than people of the same age who were not vaccinated, according to the CDC. People who were partially vaccinated were 64% less likely to be hospitalized with the disease than the unvaccinated.

The risk for severe illness increases with age, and because older adults are at highest risk, the CDC prioritized them for vaccination. About 68% of adults 65 and older in the United States — more than 37 million people — have been fully inoculated, the data shows.

Early reports from Israel documented the real-world effectiveness of vaccination, including among older adults, but those reports looked only at those inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. In the CDC analysis, both Pfizer and Moderna were represented.

Read the story here.

—Lena H. Sun, The Washington Post

WSU, a few of Washington’s private colleges to require that students get vaccinated against COVID-19

Washington State University will require proof that students and staff are vaccinated against COVID-19 before they return to live or work on campus, the university announced Wednesday. The announcement comes as part of the university’s plan to return to in-person classes and athletics next fall. 

All students living in university housing on WSU’s Pullman campus will need to submit vaccine documentation by Aug. 6. All other students will have until Nov. 1 to provide proof; those who don’t won’t be eligible to register for spring semester courses. 

WSU is Washington’s first public university to announce vaccine requirements. It joins Seattle University and Pacific Lutheran University, two private universities that mandated vaccines for students earlier this month. The University of Washington, Western Washington University, The Evergreen State College and Central Washington University haven’t announced mandates but are strongly urging staff and students to get vaccinated. Over the past month, California’s two public university systems and dozens of other colleges nationwide have also announced new COVID-19 vaccine policies. 

At WSU, students can seek medical or religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccines, just as they can for the university’s other required vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella. 

The university is also creating a new exemption for those who have personal concerns about getting vaccinated. Students and staff will be required to submit requests for such exemptions, but university officials said they are still ironing out what they’ll ask for from those seeking a waiver for personal reasons.

Read the story here.

—Hannah Furfaro, The Seattle Times

State health officials confirm 1,641 new coronavirus cases, 12 new deaths in Washington

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,641 new coronavirus cases and 12 new deaths on Wednesday.

The update brings the state's totals to 400,149 cases and 5,474 deaths, meaning that 1.4% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

In addition, 22,111 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 78 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 100,953 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,512 deaths.

Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 5,248,061 doses and 28.86% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are currently giving an average of about 61,001 vaccine shots per day.

The DOH says its daily case reports may also include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day, occasional false positive tests and other data discrepancies. Because of this, the previous day’s total number of cases plus the number of new daily cases does not add up to the new day’s total number of cases. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard's epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state's COVID-19 spread.

—Brendan Kiley

Connecticut is 6th state to end religious vaccine exemption

Connecticut will no longer allow a religious exemption from childhood immunization requirements for schools, colleges and day care facilities, becoming the sixth state to end that policy.

The legislation was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Ned Lamont, hours after the Democratic-controlled Senate passed the bill late Tuesday night. More than 2,000 opponents had rallied outside the state Capitol building, arguing the legislation unfairly infringes on their religious liberties and parental rights.

“Proud to sign this bill into law to protect as many of our school children as possible from infectious diseases as we can,” Lamont said in a tweet, announcing he had signed the contentious bill.

Shortly afterward, two groups opposing the legislation — We The Patriots USA, Inc. and The CT Freedom Alliance, LLC. — said they plan to file state and federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the new law, which will take effect with the 2022-23 school year.

The other states that have ended religious exemptions for vaccines are California, New York, West Virginia, Mississippi and Maine, according to proponents.

Read the story here.

—Susan Haigh, The Associated Press

While the world isolates, a New Zealand band plays to 50,000 fans

Singer Matiu Walters grinned as he gazed out over 50,000 damp but delirious fans and said those magic words: “So, what’s up Eden Park?”

While much of the world remains hunkered down, the band Six60 has been playing to huge crowds in New Zealand, where social distancing isn’t required after the nation stamped out the coronavirus.

The band’s tour finale on Saturday night was billed as the largest concert in the world since the pandemic began.

One fan, Lucy Clumpas, found it a surreal experience to be surrounded by so many people after she spent last year living through endless lockdowns in Britain.

“It’s very important for us as humans to be able to get together and sing the same songs together,” she said. “It makes us feel like we’re part of something."

Read the story here.

—Nick Perry, The Associated Press

What’s new at Seattle-Tacoma airport? When will travel return? Industry leaders project optimism amid uncertainty

At times during 2020, said Lance Lyttle, director of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, “you could literally roll a bowling ball through the terminal and not hit anybody — it was that bad.”

But during a Wednesday panel about the future of travel, Lyttle, along with other Seattle travel industry professionals and public officials, projected a general sense of optimism, while admitting that the full return of travel would depend on external factors — border controls, vaccination rates, consumer confidence — over which they have no control.

Read the story here.

—Brendan Kiley, Seattle Times arts and culture reporter

Hungarian traveling circus rehearsing for post-COVID opening

Human and four-legged performers alike are preparing to bring Hungary’s largest traveling circus back on the road after the COVID-19 pandemic halted its shows for more than a year.

From its offseason home in Sada, a small village just outside the capital, Budapest, the Florian Richter Circus is holding rehearsals in cautious anticipation of when performances may begin again.

A state of emergency was declared in Hungary only a day before the troupe was to begin its spring season last year, and pandemic restrictions limiting events and public gatherings have meant the circus hasn’t brought in any income since.

Read the story here.

—Justin Spike, The Associated Press

Help Wanted: In pandemic, worry about finding summer workers

The owner of seafood restaurants on Cape Cod has eliminated lunch service and delayed the opening of some locations because his summertime influx of foreign workers hasn’t arrived yet.

More than a thousand miles away, a Jamaican couple is fretting about whether the rest of their extended family can join them for the seasonal migration to the popular beach destination south of Boston that’s been a crucial lifeline for them for decades.

As vaccinated Americans start to get comfortable traveling again, popular summer destinations are anticipating a busy season. But hotel, restaurant and retail store owners warn that staffing shortages exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic could force them to limit occupancy, curtail hours and services or shut down facilities entirely just as they’re starting to bounce back from a grim year.

The problem, they say, is twofold: The annual influx of seasonal foreign workers has stalled in places because of the pandemic and businesses are struggling to attract U.S. workers, even as many have redoubled their efforts to hire locally amid high unemployment.

Read the story here.

—Philip Marcelo, The Associated Press

Cougars must get COVID-19 vaccine, WSU says

Cougs will have to have their shots before school starts in August, Washington State University announced on its website this week.

In a statement, WSU President Kirk Schulz that systemwide, students and employees will be required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to attend in-person classes and activities for the 2021—2022 academic year.

"In order to participate in any on‑site or in‑person courses and activities, students at all WSU locations will be expected to be vaccinated by the start of the fall semester," the statement said.

Exemptions are allowed for medical or religious reasons and for online-only students.

WSU Pullman students who are living in university-owned housing must be vaccinated or have an approved exemption by Aug. 6.

Read more here.

—Christine Clarridge

Oregon joins Washington state in facing shutdowns amid rising virus cases

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the Pacific Northwest states of Oregon and Washington, their governors quickly reacted with shutdowns. Now they are about to impose new restrctions again as infections and hospitalizations rise to alarming levels.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is putting 15 counties that encompass the state’s biggest cities into the state’s extreme risk category starting Friday, imposing restrictions that include banning indoor restaurant dining.

As Brown issued her order on Tuesday, she said rising COVID-19 hospitalizations threaten to overwhelm doctors.
“If we don’t act now, doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other health care providers in Oregon will be stretched to their limits treating severe cases of COVID-19,” Brown said.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to order new restrictions next week for several counties, likely including the state’s largest, that would force businesses and churches to reduce their indoor gathering capacity from 50% to 25%.

Read the story here.

—Andrew Selsky, The Associated Press

Unvaccinated people 65 and up are hospitalized with COVID nearly 10 times more often, state says

Unvaccinated Washington residents ages 65 and older were hospitalized with COVID-19 at nearly 10 times the rate of their vaccinated counterparts, according to the state's Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah.

Shah and other public health officials said at a news briefing Wednesday that cases of coronavirus in Washington continue to go up among all age groups except 60 and older, and that hospitalizations are increasing as well.

While the data about hospitalization rates among all age groups is not in yet, the numbers show that among those 65 and older, unvaccinated state residents were being hospitalized at 9.7 times the rate of those who had been vaccinated.

Shah addressed concerns about a fourth wave of infections and said public health officials remain focused on getting shots into Washingtonians' arms by making vaccinations more accessible and convenient and by addressing continued vaccine hesitancy.

Efforts to overcome vaccine hesitancy have seen notable success from personal interactions, and DOH officials urged people to help their neighbors, friends and relatives find answers as well as shots.

To date, 5.1 million vaccines have been administered in the state and more than 25% of Washingtonians are fully vaccinated, DOH reports.

—Christine Clarridge

Gates help launch Go Give One campaign for equitable vaccines worldwide

A new mass fundraising campaign aims to inspire 50 million people around the world to make small donations to Covax, the international effort to push for equitable global distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Called Go Give One, the campaign was launched Wednesday by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the WHO Foundation and corporate, religious, and world leaders.

A Facebook event, Rally for Global Vaccine Access, is scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 pm. PDT on Friday.

The campaign will contribute to the $3 billion in Covax funding needed to vaccinate almost 30 percent of people in 92 low-income countries sometime next year.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given $70 million to help develop and distribute COVID-19 vaccines in low-income countries.


—The Associated Press

South Africa resumes giving J&J jabs to health care workers

 South Africa has resumed giving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to health care workers after a more than two-week pause in the use of the only COVID-19 inoculation in the country.

South Africa on Wednesday restarted its drive to inoculate 1.2 million health care workers with the J&J vaccine.

South Africa suspended the use of the J&J vaccine on April 13 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that it might be linked to rare blood clots. The country’s drug regulatory body determined that the vaccine is safe and Cabinet approved resuming its use.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Vaccine teams do house calls for Rome’s homebound

The doctor and nurse manage just 12 shots a day — six in the morning, six in the afternoon — visiting Rome’s home-bound elderly to administer COVID-19 vaccines and, with them, the hope that Italy’s most fragile might soon emerge from the pandemic.

It’s a time-consuming but crucial part of the vaccination campaign in Italy, which has the world’s second-oldest population and tends to care for its aged at home rather than in institutional facilities.

In the Lazio region around Rome, some 30,000 people over age 75 and with conditions that made it impossible for them to get to vaccination centers requested a house call. On Tuesday, a dozen of them got their second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech thanks to Dr. Elisa Riccitelli and nurse Luigi Lauri.

When they ring a doorbell, they are welcomed inside like heroes.

“It’s really a very nice feeling,” Riccitelli said. “We often vaccinate bedridden patients who cannot move, the extremely elderly, so the feeling is that we’re doing something really useful.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

BioNTech boss: Europe will reach herd immunity this summer

Europe can achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus within three to four months, the head of German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, which developed the first widely approved COVID-19 vaccine with U.S. partner Pfizer, said Wednesday.

While the exact threshold required to reach that critical level of immunization remains a matter of debate, experts say a level above 70% would significantly disrupt transmission of the coronavirus within a population.

“Europe will reach herd immunity in July, latest by August,” Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s chief executive, told reporters.

Read the story here.

—Frank Jordans, The Associated Press

Greek PM: Vaccine hesitancy driving high death rate

Greece’s prime minister has issued an appeal for elderly Greeks to get vaccinated, blaming hesitancy for persistently high rates of death and hospitalization.

Greece’s vaccination program has remained roughly in line with the European Union average, but deaths are higher and the number of COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care unit treatment is at its highest level since the start of the pandemic.

Health experts say Greeks over age 80 and below 70 are failing to make or skipping vaccination appointments in significantly larger numbers than those in the 75 to 79 age bracket.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Chinese companies considers mixing vaccines, booster shots

Chinese vaccine makers are looking at mixing their jabs and whether a booster shot could help better protect against COVID-19.

Sinovac and Sinopharm, the two Chinese manufacturers that combined have exported hundreds of millions of doses all over the world, say they’re are considering combining their vaccines with those from other companies.

Sequential immunization means mixing different vaccines and it is a strategy that could boost efficacy rates, said Ashley St. John, an immunologist at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.

The practice is being considered in other countries as well and could have public health implications worldwide as governments around the world face delays in getting their vaccines in a timely manner and logistical hurdles in rolling out the shots.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

The expected COVID baby boom may be a baby bust

When most of the U.S. went into lockdown over a year ago, some speculated that confining couples to their homes — with little to entertain them beyond Netflix — would lead to a lot of baby-making. But the statistics suggest the opposite happened.

Births have fallen dramatically in many states during the coronavirus outbreak, according to an Associated Press analysis of preliminary data from half the country.

The COVID-19 baby boom appears to be a baby bust.

Nationally, even before the epidemic, the number of babies born in the U.S. was falling, dropping by less than 1% a year over the past decade as many women postponed motherhood and had smaller families.

But data from 25 states suggests a much steeper decline in 2020 and into 2021, as the virus upended society and killed over a half-million Americans.

Births for all of 2020 were down 4.3% from 2019, the data indicates. More tellingly, births in December 2020 and in January and February 2021 — nine months or more after the spring 2020 lockdowns — were down 6.5%, 9.3% and 10% respectively, compared with the same months a year earlier.

December, January and February together had about 41,000 fewer births than the same three-month span a year earlier. That’s an 8% decline.

Read the story here.

—Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press

India grieves 200,000 dead with many more probably uncounted

COVID-19 deaths in India officially surged past 200,000 on Wednesday, but the true death toll is believed to be far higher.

In India, mortality data was poor even before the pandemic, with most people dying at home and their deaths often going unregistered. The practice is particularly prevalent in rural areas, where the virus is now spreading fast.

This is partly why this nation of nearly 1.4 billion has recorded fewer deaths than Brazil and Mexico, which have smaller populations and fewer confirmed COVID-19 cases.

India had thought the worst was over when cases ebbed in September. But infections began increasing in February, and on Wednesday, 362,757 new confirmed cases, a global record, pushed the country’s total past 17.9 million, second only to the U.S.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Hit both by pandemic and quality problems, Boeing reports more losses

Boeing reported Wednesday that it lost $561 million in the first quarter on revenue of $15.2 billion, results largely in line with market expectations, though it burned through cash at a higher than expected rate of $41 million per day.

In the first three months of the year, demand for commercial jets was depressed from the COVID-19 pandemic. And due to a manufacturing problem, Boeing managed to deliver late in the quarter just two 787 Dreamliners, one of the planes that some airlines still want to take.

However, Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun offered optimism for 2021 and told employees in a message Wednesday morning that the company has taken “important strides” toward transforming the business to adapt to the realities of the downturn.

Read the story here.

—Dominic Gates

Get set for a ‘tsunami’ of people changing jobs once the pandemic ebbs, experts say

There’s a seismic shift in the workforce brewing, one that experts say is altering the way employees view their workplace and how companies do business.

That’s according to Prudential Financial’s most recent Pulse of the American Worker Survey, which shows that 1 in 4 workers, 26%, plan to look for a job at a different company once the pandemic has subsided.

The survey, which polled 2,000 adults working full-time, also shows that 80% of those who are planning to leave their job are concerned about career growth, and 75% say the pandemic has made them rethink their skill sets.

The nation’s workforce is right at the beginning of a “tsunami” of people changing jobs, according to David Cathey, a partner with recruiting company Unity Search Group.

A year into the pandemic, 68% of American workers say that having the ability to work both remotely and at the work site is the ideal workplace model, according to the survey. Of workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic, 87% want to continue working remotely at least one day a week once the pandemic subsides.

Read the story here.

—Eric Schwartzberg, Dayton (Ohio) Daily News

Catch up on the past 24 hours

King County will likely be sent back to the second phase of reopening on Monday, forcing changes to what residents can and can't do as case numbers and hospitalizations surge.

Fully vaccinated people should feel free to go maskless outdoors except in crowded settings, and even unvaccinated people can enjoy some new freedoms, the CDC said yesterday as it issued new guidance for a slew of scenarios. But much of the country had already moved on.

Nervous about getting a vaccine? All the misinformation out there isn't making things easier. Know the truth behind these eight myths. And it's an especially tricky time for people with a needle phobia; if that's you, here are strategies for getting through your appointment.

Forget the usual vaccine freebies like Krispy Kreme doughnuts and beer. One desperate state is offering residents a new incentive to get vaccinated: money. 

—Kris Higginson